Grammy Award-winning musician Steve Riley is one of many South Louisiana artists influenced by Festivals Acadiens et Créoles. He began attending the event at age 14, watching and learning from the greats who performed in the early years, including his “hero and mentor” Dewey Balfa.
Riley performed with Balfa at Festivals Acadiens for the first time in 1987 at the young age of 17 and later with his band, the Mamou Playboys, in 1989 and every year since.
“Dewey Balfa influenced me more than any other Cajun/Creole musician, especially in my early, formative years,” Riley said. “I loved the music of the Balfa Brothers more than any other growing up. Meeting Dewey at age 15 and becoming his accordionist shortly afterward was the equivalent of meeting and playing with John Lennon for me. He wasn’t only a great musician; he was a great spokesman and ambassador for our music and culture. And his role as such was sparked, in large part, by his performance in Newport 50 years ago.”
“I’ve definitely modeled my career and approach to performing after what I learned from my time spent with him,” Riley concluded.
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys recently celebrated their silver anniversary, 25 years of a widely successful career that includes 13 recordings and four Grammy nominations. Performing at Festivals Acadiens et Créoles was always a highlight for the band, Riley said.
“I was always so nervous to play that festival with the Playboys,” he said. “I always felt like a lot of attention and expectation was placed on us back then since we were one of the few of the new generation playing traditional Cajun music. We always wanted to be at our best there and showcase any new, cool material we’d been recording and playing.”
Riley isn’t the young kid on the block at Festivals Acadiens anymore, he’s the mentor. To celebrate both the fresh music styles emanating from South Louisiana’s young musicians and to honor the perseverance of a culture through 40 years of Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, Riley came up with a special performance for musicians like himself who have musician children.
“The festival has always been a great draw for the younger generation and it seems like I always see more and more younger people attending and playing each year,” Riley said. “I came up with an idea for the festival this year called ‘One Generation at a Time’ where musicians like myself who have kids that play music will do short 15-20 minute showcases together with their kids. It’s good to have the kids get some stage experience, meet other kids like them, and a great, loose, fun bonding experience for all involved.”
Riley will perform with his children Elise, Burke and Dolsy Riley as part of the “One Generation at a Time: Families That Play Together” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, on Scène Atelier. Other musicians with their children performing on Saturday include Christine Balfa with daughters Amelia and Sophie Powell, and Travis and Janson Matte. At 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12, the “One Generation at a Time” performance includes Mike, Cameron and Cade Dupuis; Sherelle Chenier and Lil Buck Sinegal; Terry, Phillip and Luke Huval; Yvette and Trevor Landry; and Richard and Stephen Comeaux on two stages.